The UK is slowly crawling out of lockdown and, hopefully, back to normality, so I felt it was a good time to promote one of the bricks and mortar shops that have been hanging in there against all odds.
We visited Idle Torque, in the village of Cotesbach, near Lutterworth, Leicestershire, in the break between the lockdown 2 and 3 (I think, it's a blur), and followed up by sending owner, Jack Gutteridge, some questions on email to find out how and why he opened a shop specialising in high-end and distinctive motorcycle clothing in rural Leicestershire.
Idle Torque owner, Jack behind the counter
SIDEBURN: Hi Jack, please start off by telling us about yourself.
JACK GUTTERIDGE: My name is Jack, 34, from Leicester. I run a little independent motorcycle clothing and lifestyle shop in an old stable yard in the Leicestershire countryside. Previous to setting up the shop, my background was environmental conservation and then horticulture. I worked as a head gardener at a stately home for a few years whilE studying garden design. I then teamed up with a mate of mine to run a small landscape design and build company for several years before setting the shop up.
As a youth, my first bike was a Honda C70 that I picked up for £50 and we useD to bez it around the fields with four of us on that huge seat. Once I passed my driving test I couldn’t afford to run a car and a bike until my late-20s . My first ‘big bike’ was a 1976 XS500 that I picked up from a guy in London. I still have that bike in bits in my friends' workshop. I’ve had a T100 Hinckley Bonneville and I’ve currently got a FXDX Super Glide Aport. I’ve never really been into Harleys, but I came across it by accident, so I gave it a go, and I love the torque, noise and obviously the exceptional brakes and handling!
When did Idle Torque open?
I agreed the lease and got the keys in December 2016 and then spent all of Christmas and January fitting it out before officially opening the shop on 25th Feb 2017. It pissed it down all day and I reckon there was about 30 people inside the shop at one point. Bearing in mind the shop was only 4m x 5m (13x16ft) with a large table in the middle, a counter and a changing room, so it was pretty hectic. I’ve since extended the shop into the stable next door, so it’s now a small shop as opposed to a shoe box.
Why did you choose to open a 'bricks & mortar' bike clothing lifestyle store?
It all happened pretty quickly. I suppose the fact my mate and I deciding to close the landscaping business, getting back into motorbikes, and the complete lack of decent motorcycle clothing shops in the Midlands all played a key factor. It wasn’t very inspiring visiting the generic motorcycle shops which sold the run of the mill gear. I didn’t want to wear the baggy Kevlar jeans with the stitching across the knees and naff embroidered logo on the back pocket. The only place to buy the better looking gear was in London or online, so I decided that it couldn’t be that difficult to open a proper shop that sold quality gear, but also provided that personal, knowledgeable service which you want if you’re going to spend a lot of money on a luxury protective item. In my head it all sounded pretty easy.... Ha!
Tell us about the location you chose.
The stable yard is a pretty special place. It’s a collection of really old brick buildings including barns, stables, a coach house, converted piggeries and a Tudor manor house. The place was a derelict dumping ground up until the early-90s when my landlord set about rebuilding and converting the old buildings into habitable premises. It’s now a really cool place with a mixture of residents and small businesses including an organic butcher, a traditional blacksmith, a tattoo studio and a great little cafe. We’re all good mates and most of us ride bikes as well. There’s also a little community pub which was set up in the old tack room back in the 90s by my landlord. There isn’t a pub in the village, so he would buy a keg of ale to see him and his mates through the week while they were rebuilding the stable yard. We all take care of it. The first person in lights the fire and the last person out blows the candles out and locks the door. It seems like a distant memory now but The stable yard also plays host to the Idle Torque bike nights. Before Coronavirus I would put on monthly bike nights from March through to October, plus the Christmas bike night and then the birthday bike night in February, so pretty much all year round! We have homemade food from the cafe, a bar, live music and the fire pits will be going when the sun goes down. Fingers crossed we’ll be hosting them again in 2021.
Mrs Sideburn and the Idle Torque shop dog
What do you know now you wish you'd known before you started?
Don’t waste energy worrying about what everyone else is doing!
I didn’t have a Facebook or Instagram account until I opened the shop, so I was completely new to social media. I just had an email address and my mates' numbers in my phone. The shop was pretty quiet for the first few months after opening, so I would spend a lot of time trying to get to grips with Instagram and I would constantly see how busy all the other shops and brands were (or appeared to be), which would make me question my approach and vision for the shop. It doesn’t bother me now. I’ve eventually learnt to only focus on what I’m doing and take inspiration from other brands.
Which shops or brands have inspired Idle Torque?
Andrew at Bolt London is a big influence for me. His knowledge and passion for what he does and what he has achieved is immense. We will speak on the phone from time to time and I always come away from them calls feeling more positive.
I’m not afraid to seek help or advice. It’s impossible to know everything and there’s always new things to learn. I’m inspired by pretty much anyone who tries to make a living doing something they’re passionate about.
Name some of the brands you stock.
Rokker is the main protective brand in the shop. I’ve also got Goldtop, Ashley Watson, Fuel, Knox, Davida, Hedon, Nexx, Bell and Saint. I’ve also got a big selection of Red Wing Shoes and an ever increasing range of Idle Torque wears.
What are the plans for the future?
Idle Torque will always be a quirky little shop. I’m not really interested in expansion. I’ll hopefully have someone else to help me in the shop one day as it can be tough trying to do everything on your own. This past year has just been about surviving but it has made me realise just how important a good work-life balance is. My focus is on building a stronger community of local independent shops and craftspeople.
I’m lucky to have a healthy hosiery industry on my doorstep, so I’ll be increasing the range of locally manufactured products over the next few years.
I’m also really grateful that I’ve got so many loyal customers who love visiting the shop, because it’s so unique and friendly. I know of two couples who have either got married or had a baby after meeting at an Idle Torque bike night. That’s the thing I’m most proud of since setting the shop up. The social side and community is what really keeps it going.
Thanks Jack. We urge our readers to keep their local shops, whatever they are, going. I live in a small town, and more are more shops are empty, or charity shops, and cities are being hit even harder.
Visit IdleTorque.com or really visit them at, from Wednesday to Saturday, at: The Stable Yard, Main Street, Cotesbach, Leicestershire, LE17 4HX